One of our nation’s founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, famously said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
This mantra is especially true when you get behind the wheel. So to make sure you’re prepared for anything life may throw your way, here’s a list of 20 essential items you should always keep in your car. And best of all: each is readily available for under $20!
Essential Items to Keep In Your Car
- Flashlight: If you’re ever stranded after sunset, you’ll appreciate having a light source available that’s not your smartphone. A flashlight is handy in plenty of situations, from looking under the hood to searching for something that’s rolled underneath a seat.
- Tire sealant: Whether you ran over a nail or discovered a slow leak, a can of tire sealant can save the day by enabling you to drive to the nearest repair facility instead of installing your spare tire or calling emergency roadside service.
- Jumper cables: Few things can leave you stranded faster than a dead battery. But with a set of jumper cables in your car, and the help of another friendly motorist, you can get back on the road right away. (Need a tutorial? Read our guide on how to jump-start a car.)
- Tire pressure gauge: Maintaining the correct tire pressure in your vehicle has plenty of benefits – from improving gas mileage to promoting even tire wear. Experts recommend you check your tire pressure once a month and before long road trips. Keep a tire pressure gauge in your glovebox, and you can follow that advice with ease.
- Wiper fluid: Visibility is one of the most important factors of safe driving. To help keep your windshield clear, make sure your wiper fluid tank is topped off. And keep an extra bottle in the car so you’re prepared in the event you run low.
- Work gloves: These can help protect you from cuts and scrapes if you ever need to perform a hands-on job like changing a flat tire.
- Duct tape and zip ties: Need to fix a cracked bumper? What about some loose wiring under the dash? As two of the most important items in any aspiring MacGyver’s toolbox, there’s no shortage of things that can be creatively fixed with duct tape and zip ties.
- Fire extinguisher: A small fire from an oil leak or electrical short can quickly send your entire car up in flames. Having a fire extinguisher handy can help protect you and your family by putting out the blaze – while potentially saving your vehicle from becoming a total loss. Learn more in our ultimate guide to fire extinguishers.
- First aid kit: Cuts, scrapes and burns are unfortunately a normal part of life. Having a travel first aid kit in the car means you’ll always be prepared to treat them.
- Roadside flares: If you’re ever stuck on the side of the road, it’s important to alert other drivers to your presence. Roadside flares can accomplish that job – day or night.
- Blanket: What would happen if you run out of gas during the winter or get stuck in a snowbank? With a blanket, you can stay warm until help arrives.
- Snow scraper: If you live in an area that sees freezing temperatures during the winter (or you’ve ever been forced to clear your windshield with a credit card) this item requires no explanation.
- Tool kit: You never know when you’ll need a screwdriver or a pair of pliers. For that reason, having a travel-size toolbox is always a good idea.
- Food and water: Keeping a few bottles of water and some non-perishable snacks in the trunk are an important part of any car emergency kit.
- Phone charger: We rely on our smartphones for everything from phone calls and text messages to navigation and touchless payments. Keeping a charger in the car helps ensure you’ll never be caught with a dead phone.
- Paper towels: Life can get messy. In the event you spill a cup of coffee or get greasy hands from checking your engine oil level, a roll of paper towels can save the day.
- Umbrella: Weather can be unpredictable. But keeping a small travel umbrella in your vehicle means you’ll never be caught out in the rain.
- Escape tool: This multipurpose tool can quickly get you to safety if you ever get trapped in your vehicle. The small pointed hammer allows you to break the safety glass in your car’s windows, while the cutting tool is designed to slice through seat belts.
- Hand sanitizer: A bottle of sanitizer will get rid of any germs you may have picked up while pumping gas or buying groceries. And it’s especially important in the age of COVID-19.
- Glove box organizer: Stop frantically searching through the glove box for your registration and proof of insurance. A glove box organizer will help you keep all your documents in one place. Even better? With the Erie Insurance mobile app, you can view and share policy documents (including your ID card1 and declaration page) anytime.
Be Ready for Anything with Auto Insurance You Can Trust
At ERIE, we want you to be prepared for whatever life throws your way. And auto insurance is no exception. That’s why we always customize your protection and service, giving you exactly what you need at a great price. Contact your local ERIE agent today to get a free, no-obligation auto insurance quote.
Posted on 24 October 2021 | 9:00 pm
What do bicycles, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, refrigerators and kayaks have in common? They’ve all been in short supply at times during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The past year’s global health crisis has led to unprecedented changes in supply and demand. Production shutdowns sent the price of lumber sky-high. Months spent quarantining led homeowners to spend more time outdoors, some taking on more DIY renovation projects. And fear of the unknown led to hoarding and stockpiling.
Now, nearly two years after the pandemic began, the global supply chain has mostly stabilized. But there’s still one industry where shortages continue to abound: semiconductor chip manufacturing.
And the auto industry has been one of the hardest hit.
Why are computer chips putting the brakes on new car production? Keep reading to find out.
What is a semiconductor chip?
A semiconductor chip, also called a microchip, serves as the “brain” of modern electronics. Manufactured from silicon, these highly engineered components are essentially a type of electric circuit. They include a series of transistors that function as tiny switches to control the flow of electrons.
Microchips can differ greatly in their complexity. For example, most credit cards feature a very basic chip as an added security measure. High-end computer processors, on the other hand, are incredibly complex. Today, these chips are used in nearly everything, from cars and smartphones to refrigerators and electric toothbrushes.
They’re extremely small, too (hence the name microchip). According to Intel, a leader in chip manufacturing, a single chip transistor is about 10,000 times smaller than a human hair! And to build a modern processor, billions of transistors are packed into an area about the size of a fingernail.
Why is there a chip shortage in the auto industry?
There are a few reasons why this shortage of microchips is hitting automakers particularly hard.
- Modern vehicles are using more chips than ever before. With every new model, cars and trucks feature bigger infotainment systems and a host of other high-tech car safety features. Each of these technology-packed features relies on semiconductor chips.
- The COVID-19 pandemic messed up supply and demand forecasts. When mass shutdowns and quarantines began in March 2020, auto manufacturers anticipated a huge drop in new car demand. So they reduced sales forecasts and cancelled part orders for components like microchips.
In hindsight, this move was shortsighted. Demand for new cars did indeed drop – but only temporarily. By the time automakers realized that Americans still wanted to buy new vehicles, chip manufacturers had already taken on work from other companies to replace their cancelled orders. That leads to our next question...
Why can’t manufacturers make more chips to meet demand?
Building semiconductor chips is an extremely complex, expensive and time-consuming process. For that reason, there are only a handful of chip manufacturers in the world. And all of those manufacturers are currently operating at full capacity.
Adding new manufacturing facilities, also called foundries, takes years of planning and billions of dollars in investment. And even if these foundries had the capacity to build new chips, the process of doing so takes time.
According to the Semiconductor Industry Association, it takes about 12 weeks to manufacture an average semiconductor (advanced chips can take up to 20 weeks to build!). Add in time to ramp up production and transport the finished product, and it’s estimated that the lead time for a new chip order is about six months.
How is the chip shortage affecting car prices?
Over the past year, this shortage of semiconductor chips has directly translated to a shortage of new vehicles on car lots. Many automakers have shut down production due to a lack of chips. It’s even been reported that Ford has filled parking lots across Detroit with nearly completed F-150 trucks, awaiting chip installation before they can be shipped to dealers.
A shortage of inventory means new cars are not only hard to find – but they’re also selling at (or above) the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP). This has left many car shoppers turning to the used car market, where higher prices also abound.
(Related: Is It Better to Buy a New or Used Car?)
According to industry data from Edmunds, the average transaction price for a used car was $25,410 in the second quarter of 2021. That’s up from $20,942 from the same time last year – a 21% increase!
So if you’re in the market for a new or used car, expect to pay more than ever. The only silver lining: Used car trade-in prices are also hitting record highs. (Looking for trade-in advice? Learn what to know before trading in your car.)
How long will the chip shortage last?
No one can predict exactly how soon the semiconductor chip shortage will end. But experts seem to agree that it’s not happening anytime soon.
Some auto executives are estimating production will not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023. And chipmakers have said it could take upwards of a year or two for chip production to meet current demand.
Meanwhile, the shortage has drawn the attention of the White House, which announced plans to invest $50 billion in semiconductor manufacturing and research. But this federal aid will do more to prevent future shortages than solve the current one.
Protect your investment.
Whether new or used, buying a car is a big investment. That’s why it matters to know what you’re getting with your auto insurance – and to buy through a company you can trust.
Remember that a brand-new car depreciates the moment you drive it off the lot. So if your car gets totaled, you could be in a tough spot if the actual cash value of your car is less than what you still owe on your car loan.
Protect your investment with the Auto Security Coverage Endorsement* from Erie Insurance. Your agent can add it to your ERIE auto policy for a few extra dollars per month. Buying a used car? The endorsement also offers “better vehicle replacement” – so if yours gets totaled, we’ll cover the cost to replace it with a same or similar make of vehicle up to two model years newer with up to 30,000 fewer miles.
*Vehicle is considered new when less than two years old. Eligible vehicles must carry both comprehensive and collision coverage and replacement value must be based on a comparable model. The endorsement is sold on a per-vehicle basis, not per policy, and contains the specific details of the coverages, terms, conditions and exclusions. Please note that New Vehicle Replacement and Better Vehicle Replacement do not apply to leased vehicles; only the Auto Lease/Loan Security Protection applies to leased vehicles. Coverage is not available in all states. Not available in NY and NC. Insurance products are subject to terms, conditions and exclusions not described here. Ask your ERIE agent for details.
Posted on 21 October 2021 | 9:00 pm
During the early months of the pandemic, did you notice more fast cars on the road? (And, be honest: Did you step on the gas yourself when the roads were less busy?)
The trend is noticeable – and several national highway safety organizations agree. Some groups, such as the Governors Highway Safety Association, are now sounding the alarm about the increase and launching programs to combat it.
Earlier in 2021, we surveyed 500 U.S. drivers to gauge their attitudes and behaviors regarding speeding. Keep reading to see what we found out.
Life in the Fast Lane
One in 10 of all drivers (11%) admitted to driving at extreme speeds – that’s 20 mph or more over the speed limit much more often than normal during the early months of the pandemic.
Men were almost twice as likely (14%) as women (8%) to say they drove at extreme speeds much more often than normal.
While we all like to shave a few minutes off the GPS arrival time, speeding is a dangerous habit. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, high speeds make fatal car crashes more likely. Why? Because at high speeds, it takes longer to stop – or to at least slow down enough – for a crash to be survivable. Crash energy increases exponentially as speeds go up.
Here’s a sobering number from the IIHS: One in four crash fatalities can be attributed to someone driving too fast. In 2019, the most recent year for which data are available, more than 9,000 deaths occurred in speed-related crashes.
Why Do Drivers Speed?
Back to our survey. Why are we in such a hurry – and what did COVID-19 have to do with it? We asked drivers why they sped much more often than normal early in the pandemic. Here are the five most popular reasons:
- 66%: The roads were not congested, so I felt it was safe to drive faster than posted speed limit.
- 46%: I’m a good driver, so I felt I could drive safely, even at high speeds.
- 34%: It seemed like there was far less law enforcement out, so I felt I could speed without getting a ticket.
- 25%: In general, I think posted speed limits are slower than necessary and I prefer to drive faster.
- 17%: The empty roads were a good opportunity to see how fast my car could go.
Can Better Road Design Kick Speeding to the Curb?
Our survey also asked drivers about so-called “traffic calming” measures. Popular tactics include lane narrowing and chicanes, which are deliberate curves put into an otherwise straight road. A narrow road with curves can be safer because drivers have to pay more attention and drive more slowly than they do on a wide, straight one where it’s easier to speed.
However, most drivers surveyed assumed the opposite:
- 69% of drivers said straight, wide roads tend to be safer
- 13% of drivers said narrow, curved roads are safer.
- The rest weren’t sure.
For full survey results, check out our infographic at the bottom of the article.
Read more: I got a speeding ticket. Now what?
If you tend to be somewhat of a lead foot and find yourself with a speeding violation, it’s good to know how a speeding ticket could affect your insurance – whether it’s your first violation or not.
Also, several automakers continue to introduce new technologies to help make your car smarter — and safer.
Erie Insurance is doing our part to help improve driver safety, one trip at a time. You can become a safer driver and have the chance to earn some great rewards with YourTurn. Reach out to an Erie Insurance agent to learn more.
Posted on 20 October 2021 | 9:00 pm
Halloween Safety Tips for Homeowners
- Clear the walkways. Toys, rakes, errant stones — clear them all out of the way before trick-or-treating starts. (Wet leaves are an especially slippery culprit!) A quick clean-up is one of the easiest ways to make your home safer from slip, trip and fall hazards
- Light it up. Turn on your exterior lights, including any flood lights, to help create a safe path for trick-or-treaters. Check these early so you have time to replace any burned-out bulbs.
- Corral your pets. With all the doorbells and visitors, Halloween can be stressful for your animals – and even a well behaved pet can bite or scratch when they feel anxious. A constantly opening door makes it easy for furry friends to escape, too A better idea? Keep pets in a secured room or wing of the house.
- Lock all other doors. Mischief can happen when you’re doling out candy, so play it safe by locking all of your other doors. (That includes any garage and car doors, too!) The FBI reports that approximately 30% of all burglaries are committed without force courtesy of an unlocked door or window.
- Check your railing. If it feels rickety, take the time to secure it in place.
- Skip candles. Yes, they give your pumpkins that spooky glow. But a live flame isn’t worth the fire risk you consider all the draping costumes and accessories that will whiz by the flame. Pro tip: Opt for the flameless variety instead.
- Consider your candy choices. Many kids are allergic to candy ingredients like nuts. To help them enjoy the holiday, The Teal Pumpkin Project encourages leaving a teal pumpkin on your stoop to let trick-or-treaters know that you have non-food treats like stickers and toys on hand.
- Pick a good spot. If you have a lot of stairs or a long, winding path, consider handing out candy at the end of your driveway. Another option is to host a ‘trunk-or-treat’ event at another location.
- Comb your yard. With all luck, the kiddos will stay on sidewalks and driveways. But they may wander. Clear out sticks, objects or other tripping hazards from your yard.
Check out these blogs for more tips and tricks (the good kind) on Halloween safety:
- A Parent’s Guide to a Fun (and Safe!) Halloween
- 5 Trick-or-Treating Tips for Tweens and Teens
- 4 Lesser-Known Halloween Safety Tips
It’s nearly Halloween — the time for superhero capes, princess tiaras and children scampering from porch to porch.
No matter the trick-or-treaters’ game plan, they are ready for a candy bonanza – and that starts with a knock at your door. So don’t let slips, trips and falls dampen anyone’s night. Make sure you fit in a simple safety check before you fill the candy bowl.
If you plan on welcoming trick-or-treaters this year, we have nine tips to help you get ready.
Posted on 17 October 2021 | 9:00 pm
When it comes to auto insurance claims, car fires are relatively rare. But if you’ve ever seen a vehicle engulfed in flames, you know it can be a frightening scene.
According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), there are about 200,000 vehicle fires each year in the United States – causing nearly $2 billion in property damage and claiming hundreds of lives. Since car fires can happen at any moment (and escalate quickly), being prepared on how to react will provide the best chance of protecting yourself and your family.
Here’s what you need to know about how car fires get started – and what you should do if you ever encounter one.
Why do cars catch on fire?
There are a few common causes of vehicle fires. They include:
- Mechanical failure: According to the NFPA, mechanical failures and malfunctions are the leading cause of vehicle fires. This could include the failure of an electrical component, like faulty wiring or a bad battery. Or it could be caused by a broken line that carries gas or oil to your vehicle’s engine.
- Collisions: During a collision, damaged vehicles can leak fluids that become fuel for a fire. While NFPA data shows that accidents account for only 5% of car fires, they are responsible for 63% of car fire deaths. This is because an accident can make it difficult to exit the vehicle– due to injuries sustained during the collision and/or damage to the car itself.
- Poor maintenance:. Older vehicles account for three-quarters of highway vehicle fires caused by mechanical or electrical failures. Often, issues like oil leaks and other neglected maintenance tasks are to blame.
What should I do if my car catches on fire?
A car fire can engulf your vehicle in a matter of minutes, so time is of the essence. If you find yourself in a vehicle that catches fire, follow these steps.
- Pull over. Get your vehicle off the roadway and come to a complete stop as soon as possible.
- Shut off the engine. Turning the vehicle off will stop the flow of gasoline to the engine. It also disables power to many of your car’s electrical components.
- Get out of the car. Everyone in your vehicle should get out immediately. Once you leave, stay at least 100 feet from the car and do not return to get any personal items – your safety is more important than anything you may have left behind.
- Call 911. Another motorist may have already called for emergency services. But you should always call yourself to ensure a fire truck is on its way.
What if the flames are coming from someone else’s ride? Read our related article on what to do if you witness a car accident.
Should I try to put out a car fire?
If your car is on fire, you may be tempted to put it out yourself. While it may be possible to stop a fire with a Class B or Class C fire extinguisher, most safety experts advise it’s best to just keep your distance and leave the job to the professionals. (Read our related blog story on what to know about fire extinguishers.)
Opening your car’s hood or trunk can cause a sudden increase in airflow to the fire – which will make matters worse. And many of your car’s components (such as airbags, gas shocks, fuel tanks and batteries) can explode during a fire, sending dangerous shrapnel in your direction.
What kind of damage can a car fire cause?
A fire can cause extensive damage to your vehicle in a short amount of time. According to the NFPA, about two-thirds of all car fires start in the engine compartment. That means there can be significant damage to your engine, transmission and electronic systems. The heat from the flames causes substantial paint damage. And smoke can cause irreparable damage to your interior and ventilation systems.
Due to the extent of all this damage, most cars that catch fire are considered a total loss by insurance companies. Learn more about how a car is determined a “total loss.”
Will my auto insurance cover a car fire?
A car fire can be covered by your auto insurance. But it all depends on the type of coverage you have, as well as the circumstances of the fire.
If your car catches fire because of an auto accident, then the damage generally can be covered under your collision insurance. However, if a car fire occurs for reasons not related to an accident – for example, a lightning strike or vandalism – that’s when comprehensive insurance can cover the damage.
Once your car is paid off, both of these coverages are optional. Questions about your specific policy? Talk to your local ERIE agent.
How can you prevent a car fire?
Of course, the best way to protect yourself from a car fire is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Here are some tips:
- Maintain your vehicle. Nearly every fluid in your car is flammable. So don’t ignore that oil leak. Have your car regularly serviced by a professional mechanic and always get it checked out if it doesn’t seem to be running properly. (Related: What’s a Multi-Point Inspection, And When Do I Need One?)
- Be careful when transporting fuel. Whether you’re getting gasoline for the lawn mower or grabbing a new propane cylinder for the grill, it’s important to transport it safely. Gas should only be stored in a sealed, approved container. And fuels should never be carried in the passenger area of your vehicle.
- Watch where you park. The catalytic converter in your car’s exhaust system can reach temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. So avoid parking in areas where something flammable, like dry grass or loose paper, can come in contact with the exhaust.
A Better Day Starts Here
No one pencils a car mishap in their calendar. But when you experience an unlucky break, that’s when we shine. Brighter times are ahead when you call on Erie Insurance, because it’s our job to help you handle the unexpected and get things back to normal. Get in touch with a local ERIE agent in your neighborhood today for a free, no-obligation auto insurance quote.
Posted on 14 October 2021 | 9:00 pm